A checklist to help your organisation assess how customer-centric its culture is - and understand how to improve it.
MyCustomer recently highlighted the growing popularity of the CEM maturity model - a framework created by DHL Global, in collaboration with Ovum, Gallup and the University of Strathclyde, designed to gauge and steer the development of customer experience management programmes.
In the subsequent series, we're dissecting a different dimension of the CEM maturity model, along with questions that organisations should ask themselves to assess their customer experience maturity and identify any gaps between CX performance and aspiration. Also included will be a number of proven measures that companies can take to close any gaps that are identified.
In the last piece, we examined how to assess your customer-centric vision. This week, let's discuss developing a customer-centric culture.
Once a company has defined a customer-centric vision that is clear and compelling to everyone that works for it as well as relevant to customers the next step is to ensure everyone rallies behind it. Building a customer-centric company culture is a critical step in the design of a CEM programme.
To make people happy to do business with you it is vital that everyone in the company uses every opportunity to listen to customers and takes their opinion into account. The skill and will of employees to have the customer in mind when they do their job is a prerequisite to delivering a great customer experience.
Customer-centricity is the personal state of mind where the individual employee is influenced and directed by the interests of the customers. Typically the people working at the frontline have the best understanding of what customers want. Their happiness and that of customers are intrinsically aligned. If a customer is not happy the person dealing with that customer is probably also not going to be happy and vice versa.
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To perform well as a company it is not enough for the frontline employees to be customer-centric. First of all there is a dependency on others to do a good job. Frontline staff is dependent on employees behind the frontline and they in turn are dependent on others in different departments to do their job. If customer requests are treated as internal matters as soon as they pass the front line they are unlikely to get the attention needed to meet customer expectations.
Secondly, when doing business customers interact in various different ways and through various different channels with a company and so are influenced by various different people. It is the sum of all these interactions and the impressions they leave put together that determines the overall opinion customers have of the company.
Customer-centricity is the personal state of mind where the individual employee is influenced and directed by the interests of the customers.
So, the prerequisite to be a customer-centric organisation is to have a high degree of collaboration between the employees, both in sharing customer requirements and feedback as well as in working together to address issues and make continuous improvements to all the customer interactions along the customer journeys.
The list below shows the key questions employees need to ask themselves and which indicate the degree to which they think and behave in a customer-centric manner. It starts with a general assessment of the customer orientation of the organisation. That is then put to the test by questioning the ability to capture and share customer insights. The acid test is the ability of the organisation to actually work together to address these insights.
- Does everything we do demonstrate that we always have the best interest of the customer in mind?
- Are we good at listening to customers and understanding their needs?
- Are we good at sharing customer opinions and feedback with others in the organisation?
- Do my colleagues always look for ways to make things better for our customers?
- Do my colleagues across the organisation effectively collaborate together to fix customer issues?
- If I notice that a customer is not happy with the company I work for, do I feel upset?
Usually people assess themselves more favourably than they do others. This is perhaps human nature, but it is also the result of the way many companies are organised. Most organisations are structured into a matrix that is divided by functional silos and country or business unit interests. Although there are good reasons to divide responsibilities across different departments it makes it more difficult to manage the entire customer journey that cuts across the organisation and its departments.
With the responsibility for the customer dispersed across the company it is easy for an employee to take praise personally and to put the blame for issues customers are facing down to others. It is therefore usual that people that work in larger companies tend to respond more strongly to customers that are happy than to customer that are not happy. This is why feeling upset when customers are not happy is considered a tougher test for the customer orientation of employees.
A good exercise when developing your CEM programme is to bring employees from different departments of the organisation together to try and piece together a customer journey. This is not the same as journey mapping which tends to focus on processes rather than people, which this exercise is aimed at. As each participant is in charge of one part of the journey it is not unusual that the steps before and after their part are not well known or understood.
A typical outcome of such an exercise is that people start to reflect on the customer’s perspective of what they do and realise the importance of working together. Mirroring the internal processes against the customer journey also helps bring to light the complexity that employees face in meeting customer expectations.
This can provide good suggestions what the company can do to make it easier for people to do their job and consequently make it easier for customers to do business with your company. Inviting employees around the entire company to share stories about how they worked together to make customer happy is a good way to spread the message around the entire company and reward the right behaviour.
Kim MacGillavry is vice president, customer experience, of DHL Freight. Alan Wilson is professor of marketing at Strathclyde University.